Tuesday, October 13, 2015


Alison Gopnik is a professor of psychology and an affiliate professor of philosophy at UC Berkeley and is the author of The Scientist in the Crib and The Philosophical Baby.

In the October, 2015 edition of The Atlantic, she offers an Essay entitled David Hume and the Buddha: How my search for the Eastern roots of the Western Enlightenment may have solved a philosophical mystery -- and ended my midlife crisis.

Gopnik, identifying with the writings of David Hume and the tenets of Buddhism, describes her own "self" as being generated by her interactions with people and life experiences.

Thus, when her children were grown, her marriage had disintegrated and her writing seemed complete she did not know who/what she was and found that she was bereft of any sense of future - leading to depression.

Then, researching possible sources of some of the ideas in Hume's A Treatise of Human Nature,  she found herself involved with a new purpose and its associated self and future.

The concept of a self not being free-standing but contingent on and constituted by interactions with the psychosocial environment is reminiscent of Mark Johnson's theory (The Meaning of the Body - cf. POST #XXIII) that an organism has no free-standing mind but, beginning as a neonate, engages in a process of body-mind self-structuring and self-programing as it notices (i) how its body moves and feels and (ii) how interactions with other people and objects in its environment work.

But both Johnson and Gopnik fail to take into account that a male organism and a female organism have differing, albeit complementary, sexual bodies (regardless of gender).

Thus, a male and female infant (again, regardless of gender) will unavoidably notice and feel somewhat different physical aspects of their bodies and environment;  and maturing and mature organisms will 'tune in' to differing aspects of their psychosocial environments and tend to develop differing SELVES including the possibility of gender inversion - whether fashionable of not.

Now, what does an organism pay attention to (ie., notice) after its needs for food and shelter are met? What does it want?  And does the latter become its SELF?

Freud is quoted as saying: "The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is 'What does a woman want?'"  Regardless of the accuracy of this quotation, it is a theme on the minds of many contemporary men.  Also, Freud's concept of a female envying a male's sexuality suggests that he thought that a woman ought to want him.

The present writer submits that a woman wants to give birth;  and what she has conceived and given birth to becomes her SELF.

She doesn't want the man but needs male participation -- and the male to want her as his SELF.

A female gives birth to more than babies.  She also conceives and 'gives birth to' such things as a career, a home, a week-end rendez-vous, a relationship, etc., etc. and, indeed, a future.

On the other hand, the one thing that a man must want is the woman - and she becomes his SELF.  If a man does not want a woman as she is, he must leave her - without complaint or criticism.

When a man fails to respect and appreciate his wife as constituting his psychosocial SELF - and, in addition, psychosocially 'kidnaps'  their children as being his SELF (SELVES), he has engineered a dereliction of the marriage.

When a man pays more attention to things like sports, cars, and his 'buddies', such become his SELF - and the woman's relationship with him, ie, her SELF, withers and dies.

In summary, a man's SELF is his woman and a woman's SELF is her off-spring.  Of course, a man's/boy's first SELF is his mother.  An immature female, a girl, may initially be her own free-standing SELF.